Saturday, October 27, 2018

As the midterm election approaches we should be in great fear of Climate Change. Why aren't we?

Beginning in posts here in 2011, the impacts on our grandchildren of governmental policy failures became the term used to create context about our failures as a people.

This grandchildren reference most pointedly has been used with regard to Climate Change.

Because agencies of the United States government and the Chinese government recently have accepted as inevitable a near-maximum catastrophic impact from Climate Change, the subject must be taken up again. The May 2018 Chinese study, which corresponds to the July official projections accepted and published by the Trump Administration, is unequivocal.

Of course, almost no living person in the Baby Boom generation (or older) will be alive to experience the full catastrophic impact even in the earliest year of the Chinese models - 2064. And at least half of the Gen X generation will be gone before the Chinese model "most likely" full catastrophic impact year - 2084.

That means Climate Change is still a somewhat abstract concept to the generations of people who will turnout in the greatest percentages in the upcoming Midterm Election. And too many of them keep telling themselves it is a lie as they try to figure out how to stay in their home until they die, in many cases despite regular flooding or wildfires or both.

And by "them" I must include "me" because as I wrote in 2016 Al Gore's campaign on climate policy beginning "40 years ago, he..., well, kids..., my generation failed him and you." 

We have already changed the world catastrophically

As explained in a previous post here, Elizabeth Kolbert is a Pulitzer Prize winning author who has won many awards for her extensive writings on Climate Change. In that post a quote from the 2015 update to her 2006 Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change summed up the situation (emphasis added):

    In the years since I wrote this book I’ve been asked hundreds of variations on the question: “What should I do?” What people seem to be looking for is both advice on concrete actions they can take and the assurance that what they do will make a difference. Given the paralysis of the political system, the time lag built into the climate system, and the high likelihood that the threshold of DAI [dangerous anthropogenic interference] has now been crossed, it’s difficult to offer such assurances. We have already changed the world dramatically, indeed quite probably catastrophically. But even when it comes to catastrophe, distinctions can be made. What we choose to do—or not to do—in the coming decades will determine the future both for our own kind and for the millions of other species with whom we share this planet. It is possible that we could still limit warming to around two degrees Celsius, and it is also possible that we could lock in warming of six degrees Celsius or more. These two possibilities represent radically different worlds.

In her 2014 Pulitzer Prize winning book The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History she explains that the Earth is in the midst of a man-made sixth extinction, chronicling previous mass extinction events, and comparing them to the accelerated, widespread extinctions of our present time. In a July 2014 interview on The Daily Show with John Stewart promoting the book at the end they both acknowledge a kind of despair:

Even by 2015 she still said: "But even when it comes to catastrophe, distinctions can be made." In this week's The New Yorker Kolbert expressed her frustrated outrage (emphasis added):

    Last week, the United Nations’ scientific advisory board delivered its assessment of those numbers. The findings of the group, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, were almost universally—and justifiably—described as “dire.” Even 1.5 degrees’ worth of warming, the I.P.C.C. warned, is likely to be disastrous, with consequences that include, but are not limited to, the loss of most of the world’s coral reefs, the displacement of millions of people by sea-level rise, and a decline in global crop yields. Meanwhile, at the current rate of emissions, the world will have run through the so-called carbon budget for 1.5 degrees within the next decade or so. “It’s like a deafening, piercing smoke alarm going off in the kitchen,” Erik Solheim, the executive director of the U.N. Environment Program, told the Washington Post.
    But, if a smoke alarm rings in the kitchen and everyone’s watching “Fox & Friends” in the den, does it make a sound? Asked about the report last week, Donald Trump said, “I want to look at who drew it—you know, which group drew it.” The answer seemed to indicate that the President had never heard of the I.P.C.C., a level of cluelessness that, while hardly a surprise, was nevertheless dismaying. The next day, as a devastating hurricane hit Florida—one made that much more destructive by the warming that’s already occurred—the President flew to Pennsylvania to campaign for Lou Barletta, a climate-change-denying Republican congressman running for the Senate.
    Though the Administration often seems incapable of systematic action, it has spent the past eighteen months systematically targeting rules aimed at curbing greenhouse-gas emissions. One of these rules, which required greater fuel efficiency for cars and trucks, would have reduced CO2 emissions by an estimated six billion tons over the lifetime of the affected vehicles. In a recent filing intended to justify the rollback, the Administration predicted that, by the end of this century, global temperatures will have risen by almost four degrees Celsius (nearly seven degrees Fahrenheit). In this context, the Administration argued, why would anyone care about a mere six billion tons? Come the apocalypse, it seems, we’ll all want to be driving S.U.V.s.
    ...Meanwhile, two and a half degrees, three degrees, or even, per the Trump Administration, four degrees of warming are all realistic possibilities. Indeed, based on recent trends, the last figure seems the most likely. Globally, emissions rose last year, and they’re expected to rise still further this year. This disaster is going to be as bad—as very, very bad—as we make it.
Yes. "This disaster is going to be as bad—as very, very bad—as we make it." Unfortunately, in 2018 in both the U.S. and China formal findings have been made that we have "locked in warming" of 4°± Celsius most likely within 60 years.

Under the direction of the Trump Administration the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) with the cooperation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) issued a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule for Model Year 2021–2026 Passenger Cars and Light Trucks proposing reduced average fuel economy standards for those vehicles.

The DEIS has determined that the draft official policy of the United States government will be acceptance of a near worst case scenario, a 4.387°C (7.876°F) global temperature rise since 1880 by 2100. That is because any lesser scenario would require deep cuts in carbon emissions to avoid this drastic warming. A lesser scenario “would require substantial increases in technology innovation and adoption compared to today’s levels...which is not currently technologically feasible or economically feasible.”

Take it from someone who has prepared similar such documents - that DEIS is a thorough document.

One might wish to claim that if the Trump Administration would just get on board, things might be different. But in China, home to the world's second largest (and sooner or later, largest) economy, the same conclusion was reached.

In May a collaborative research team from China published a new analysis that shows the Earth's climate would increase by 4 °C, compared to pre-industrial levels, most likely by 2084. They found that most of the models projected an increase of 4°C as early as 2064 and as late as 2095, with 2084 appearing as the median year.

"Our ultimate goal is to provide a comprehensive picture of the mean and extreme climate changes associated with higher levels of global warming based on state-of-the art climate models, which is of high interest to the decision-makers and the public," said Dabang Jiang, a senior researcher at the Institute of Atmospheric Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Perhaps some would want to dismiss both government agencies as being too pessimistic. The problem is in 1995, now 23 years ago,  then Vice-President Gore reflected on his experienced reality in a 1995 New York Times article:
"We are in an unusual predicament as a global civilization," Al Gore said when I interviewed him early in his Vice Presidency. "The maximum that is politically feasible, even the maximum that is politically imaginable right now, still falls short of the minimum that is scientifically and ecologically necessary."
In other words, as Kobert outlined in The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History various species have already gone extinct. Others are adapting, doing things like moving to higher elevations. But they haven't experienced anything close to the impacts of an increase of 4°C which will strain every species including humans.

The species that all living human beings on this planet belong to is Homo sapiens. During a time of dramatic climate change 200,000 years ago, Homo sapiens (modern humans) evolved in Africa. We evolved out of a time of dramatic climate change and we could go extinct in a time dramatic climate change.

Unless, of course, we successfully adapt. But that would require a broad acceptance of what's coming - the impacts of an increase of 4°C, perhaps as early as 2064 but certainly no later than then end of the 21st Century.

The impacts in most presentations include discussions of sea water depths and temperature rises. In terms of human populations, in the popular American press usually we only read about people on some Pacific island or populations living in Trump's "shithole" countries.

In 2010 scientists noted that higher resolution modelling studies project substantial increases in the frequency of the most intense cyclones, and increases of the order of 20% in the precipitation rate within 100 km (60 mi) of the storm centre. But it wasn't until this month, eight years later, we see the following headlines:
And yet no politician is adequately creating in the U.S. population fear of the coming impacts of Climate Change, unless you mistakenly consider migration from Central America an impact. The one American truth about Climate Change impacts as a subject is the complete lack of presentation focused on the geographic centers of Progressive populations compared to the Deplorables populations.

(And most certainly no one is mentioning the many, many American billionaires quietly investing in expensive homes on hundreds or thousands of acres of ranch land in the area of the Eastern Slope of the Continental divide. But that's another subject.)

Awareness has only begun with sea rise and a wildfire-mudslide cycle

To begin to understand the reality, watch this news feature video done by Australians limited to sea rise impacts, recognizing that it was done in 2017 before the new numbers:

Since two of the featured locales are on the Gulf of Mexico, take a look at these comparative maps - the right side is what not too long ago many thought would be the maximum impact, the left side is what we now project will happen in 60± years while the right side is maybe 20 years out (click on the image for a larger version):

Do look at the larger version particularly if you think you might want to invest now in what will be beach front real estate in Tallahassee, Florida, or Houston, Texas, or Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It will be valuable property you can bequest to your descendants.

Not featured in the video are two U.S. West Coast locales that haven't experienced any visible sea rise impact because they aren't ocean front communities - Sacramento, California, and Portland Oregon. With the 4°± Celsius sea rise most likely within 60 years, folks there might want to consider these maps  (click on the image for a larger version):

As can be seen on the left, with a rise of 4°C all of Sacramento and much of its surrounds will be inundated. This is because the Sacramento and San Joaquin River confluence areas will be impacted by the rising waters in the San Francisco Bay. (What we know as "The Delta" will no longer exist except as a bay.)

And all of downtown Portland and large swaths of areas adjacent to the Columbia River will be inundated. This is because the waters in the Columbia River will discharge into a much higher ocean outlet, causing the water to rise inland as far as the Bonneville Dam.

(Anyone can use the tools offered at Surging Seas, part of the website.)

Rising seas along with the recent wildfire-mudslide cycles provide strong visual presentations. In the video above we even see the beginnings of the "migration from" patterns within the United States due to sea rise.

In California, we now read ‘Fire-floods’ are the new threat in California disasters. Where will they strike next? which offers this video:

Then comes agricultural production losses with eco-system changes

But this doesn't even begin to expore the impacts of eco-system changes and resulting changes in agricultural production.

With a 4°C of global warming the likelihood "substantial species extinctions" and "large risks to global and regional food security" is "extremely high" according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In other words, the ecosystem transformation will be unavoidable. And while you may not be concerned about that frog or cricket in the field down the road, you may want to eat.

Food production is a huge concern.  Now here's where communications skills were, and still are, lacking in Democrats. Consider this.
"A growing number of studies suggest it would become significantly more difficult for the world to grow food with 3°C or 4°C of global warming."
It's unfortunate. Scientific truths are saddled with terms like "extremely high", "growing number", "suggest" and "more difficult." Nonethless, climate science studies when tied to economic information indicate that not only will your grandchildren's diet look radically different they may not have enough to eat. What we know as the American middle-class and poorer families will struggle to fund three meals a day. Parents will have to join their kids for lunch using the school lunch program.

Ignoring all of the rest of the world, graphics like the one at the left are used to tell us that radical shifts in agricultural production will be required in the areas within the circles. This is how the threat to our grandchildren is communicated! Large broad strokes are offered which cause eyes to glaze over. It doesn't say to folks in Red States "your descendants will go hungry!"

That means substantial changes in production in the United States - as a nation the U.S. will become far less self-sufficient when it comes to obtaining food. But the average Trump supporter can't get that from the narrative offered at the right.

And that is what ultimately allowed people to ignore the Climate Change problem. Scientists don't assert a truth, they describe what might be the case, if.... In a case like this they do this because there is no exact experience, no mathematical absolute. There are data variations, chances, unknowns.

And if we all wait to see what will actually happen, we'll know all the frogs and crickets are dead just before we all starve, or die of heat, or flooding. Because like frogs, we need time to adapt, so unless we start now.....

U.S. production of corn, much of which is used to feed livestock could be cut in half by a 4˚C increase in global temperatures. A study by Purdue University note that warmer overnight temperatures in Indiana have contributed to reduced corn yields over the last decade. Elevated overnight temperatures increase plant respiration, reducing sugar availability for grain production, and it can affect the timing and success of pollination—resulting in lower crop yield. Observations show that Indiana corn yields are reduced by about 2 percent for every 1°F increase in overnight temperatures during July.

The study suggests such things as breeding corn for traits that improve factors contributing to yield in warmer conditions, may also help offset the effect of warming overnight temperatures. But we need to know that this takes time and money.

More than half of California's Central Valley is projected to be no longer suitable for growing crops like apricots, peaches, plums and walnuts sometime around the middle of the century. By the end of the century, that’s projected to grow to 90 percent or more of the valley!

Tapan Pathak, a scientist and climate adaptation extension specialist at the University of California, Merced, who was the lead author of a 2018 study Climate Change Trends and Impacts on California Agriculture: A Detailed Review explained: “There is a clear need and urgency for adaptation research to make California agriculture resilient to future climate risks,”  In that localized research, he said, “priority should be given to crops and commodities that are most vulnerable to climate impacts."

Other studies of the U.S. indicate that some crop production can be shift northward, much like the animals and plants moving to higher elevations, though volume will be reduced without other adaptation breakthroughs.

Hopefully, the Climate Change hoax bluster of the Republicans will not keep agricultural research unfunded.

Regarding Al Gore's campaign on climate policy beginning 40 years ago, he..., well, kids..., my generation failed him and you. But then I said that before....

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